Jordan says bridge backup to end soon, Palestinians want it open 24 hours

Passengers queue in a room at Al-Karamah border crossing, where Israeli entry delays have caused a backlog of hundreds of people. (Photo: JNews)
Passengers queue in a room at Al-Karamah border crossing, where Israeli entry delays have caused a backlog of hundreds of people. (Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — Jordan is seeking to address the overcrowding of Palestinian travelers on the King Hussein Bridge, which was caused by Israel’s failure to accommodate the unprecedented passenger traffic, Minister of Interior Mazen Al-Farraya said Tuesday.اضافة اعلان

Farraya’s comment came as Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Al-Shtayyeh said that the Palestinian Authority is coordinating with Jordan to have Israel leave Al-Karamah border crossing open around the clock.

Karamah border crossing connects Jordan with the West Bank, which is under Israeli occupation since the territory was seized in the 1967 Arab-Isreali war. The border straddles the Jordan Valley, on the edge of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth.

It is known that the area has scorching temperatures this time of the year, which could run to the upper 40OC.

In a tour of the Jordan Valley crossing, Farraya promised immediate, medium-term, and long-term solutions to most of the traveler problems, especially those of a humanitarian and logistical nature, according to the Jordan News Agency, Petra.

The minister explained that the border crossing is experiencing unprecedented traveler congestion as a result of a two-year travel disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the holiday season, and the return of expatriates.

He disclosed that more than 10,000 passengers arrive daily at the crossing, but only about half of them are able to cross due to the Israeli measures of short working hours and limited staff.

Regarding short-term fixes, Farraya said that new arrangements with the relevant transportation companies will allow for the sale of transportation tickets at designated locations throughout the governorates and the capital Amman, rather than at the crossing, and in accordance with the number of passengers the Israeli side can handle.

Additionally, he noted that within two weeks, an electronic platform will be launched through which travelers crossing the King Hussein Bridge can obtain an electronic transport ticket.

Farraya met with bridge officials, who suggested opening new lanes and rehabilitating existing ones so that one section is for commercial trucks and the other is for travelers to reduce congestion and improve traffic flow.

The minister explained that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates is working with stakeholders to find solutions that will facilitate passenger traffic, denying that any country is mediating between Jordan and Israel regarding the travel movement procedures on the bridge.

So far, there is no information that Israel will possibly extend its working hours, Farraya said.

In a separate development, Shtayyeh, the Palestinian premier, said that his authority was in touch with Jordan to have Israel extend to 24 hours its shifts on the border crossing to ease the backup.

Shtayyeh demanded in a statement that a separate passenger track be designated at the crossing, known in Jordan as the King Hussein Bridge, until the reopening of the Damia Bridge.

Hussein Al-Sheikh, secretary of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), blamed the Israeli government for what he termed a “catastrophic situation” at the Karamah crossing.

Sheikh said in a statement that intensive contacts are currently underway with Jordan to find solutions to “this tragic situation, which Palestinians are experiencing”. He called on Israel to take the necessary measures to end the suffering of people on the bridge.

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